The Cognitive Side of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (Forschung)

H. Lamarr @, München, Dienstag, 04.08.2015, 11:54 (vor 2738 Tagen) @ H. Lamarr

Die kognitive Seite der "Elektrosensibilität" untersuchte der französische Wissenschaftler Maël Dieudonné am Max-Weber-Zentrum der Universität Lyon.

No satisfying working definition of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) has ever been proposed, leaving anyone willing to investigate this condition with assertions from alleged sufferers as the only inclusion criterion for participants in his study. The deeply subjective nature of this criterion undoubtedly impedes the scientific understanding of EHS. This paper thus examines the genesis of symptoms attribution to EMF exposure among forty people claiming to suffer from EHS. The data consists of semi-structured interviews conducted with them in person, in various areas of France, over one year between 2012 and 2013. They were analyzed following an ethnographic approach. We observed that in every subject, the attribution of symptoms to EMF exposure results from an identical, seven stages cognitive process through which its obviousness is progressively forged. Nothing in this process appears specific to any set of symptoms, provided they are disturbing and resilient enough. We therefore argue that EHS should less be regarded as a disease in its own right, than as a mental structure making it possible to cope with such symptoms (which might be labeled as medically unexplained).

The claim to be hypersensitive to EMF is the outcome of a seven stages cognitive trajectory.

1. Annoying or incapacitating symptoms appear and develop until they become unmanageable. This might happen either progressively (on the course of several years) or suddenly (within a few weeks) but always results in a biographical disruption (mostly an unexpected inability to fulfill one's professional and/or domestic duties) which reveals the symptoms' abnormality.

2. The subject seeks treatment for his ailment beside general practitioners, medical specialists or alternative therapists - most of the time beside them all, because none of the treatments he is offered proves durably effective. Thus he fails to restore the normality of his situation. The length of this stage varies greatly also. It comes to an end when...

3. The subject happens to learn about EHS, either in a radio show, in a newspaper article (usually from the local or militant press), or during a talk with friends or relatives - but very rarely on the Internet. He is presented with the testimony of an alleged EHS sufferer in which he recognizes himself ("what he was telling, that was me, that was what I was living"). This moment is experienced as a true revelation, which arouses a vertiginous questioning ("what if EHS is what I am suffering from?")

4. The subject then start to collect information on EHS compulsively, on the Internet first, then beside patient groups and small but active associations campaigning against wireless communications. This information typically concerns the other sufferers' symptoms and the devices to which they attribute them. Their analysis arouses contrasting feelings, fluctuating between relief (having at last identified the disease one suffers from: "I'm not crazy, it's not all in my head") and fear (in anticipation of the multiple constraints associated with this condition: "how am I going to live?"). This stage is short but extremely intense, the subjects tending to devote all their available time to their investigation ("I needed to know"). It also proves emotionally taxing.

5. The conviction that the subject is hypersensitive to EMF appears unconsciously in his mind, taking the paradoxical form of a conscious and violent rejection of this diagnostic ("I don't want this illness, it's too bad!").

6. The subject goes into an active verification procedure, conducting small experiments to appraise the responsibility of EMF exposure in his health state. These experiments take two forms: therapeutic ("do I fell better when I take shelter from EMF exposure?") and metrological ("can I identify a source of exposure when my symptoms occur?"). Their realization implies the acquisition of a technical knowledge, regarding which devices emit EMF (initially the only transmitters most subjects know of are cell phones and masts, and WiFi routers), how to detect them (notably with EMF sensors), and how to shield oneself from them. Remarkably, these experiments are conducted in such ways they cannot fail. For instance, the subjects do not admit any threshold in their sensitivity: every exposure they manage to identify, however weak or short, is regarded as a plausible cause of their symptoms. What they really seek to demonstrate is the independence of their conviction from their will ("I was really skeptic but I was forced to believe").

7. The subject's conviction is accepted and reaches the conscious level. Now regarding himself as an EHS sufferer, he starts adapting his lifestyle - and rewriting his personal story to make it coherent with his new belief system
(that is, producing an illness narrative).

Jedes komplexe Problem hat eine Lösung, die einfach, naheliegend, plausibel – und falsch ist.
– Frei nach Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956) –

EHS, Elektrosensibilität, Elektrosensibel, Elekrochonder

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